Refrigerator troubleshooting

I’ve got a fridge that’s not cooling as well as it should be. Cranked the thermostats all the way to “cool”, compressor is running constantly, evaporator fan is running fine. Gasket seems fine. The condenser fan would be stopped, but start right up if I gave it a push. After oiling its bearing, that fan is now running constantly.

Several days later, the fridge is still way too warm – it’s now around 45 F, and 20 F in the freezer. The condenser is barely warmer than room temperature, shouldn’t it be hot, especially if the compressor is running constantly? Does that imply some sort of leak or blockage in some part of the refrigerant loop?

Can you gain access to the evap coils? Getting a look at them might answer some of your questions. If they are totally iced over your defroster might not be working and that’ll cause problems. If they have a big chunk of ice at one end and none at the other, that would imply a freon leak.

Also, did you check the obvious and make sure the condenser coils (and the area in general) is covered in dust?

Also, can you give us the age or make/model of the fridge? Does it have a built in defroster? You say it’s running constantly but is it ever stopping to defrost?

There’s a bit of dust but not much – I cleaned out everything when I moved in and discovered the fridge wasn’t working due to a thick felt-like layer of dust on everything :smack:. It looks like the evaporator is behind a baffle at the back of the freezer, I’ll see if I can remove that. At the very least, there’s no ice buildup in the easily visible parts areas.

It’s a Maytag It’s a Maytag, model MTB2156GE – can’t tell exactly how old it is, but there’s a receipt from 2002 taped to the back… the receipt doesn’t say much, but there’s a line for 4 oz of freon, so perhaps it was recharged 10 years ago. And I think the compressor does stop, occasionally, but I haven’t been paying attention to that since starting this adventure.

Now, since I rent I can always call my landlord, but I find it easier to fix little things myself, rather than wait for his cheap and lazy ass to get around to calling a barely competent “handyman”.

I’m going to suggest you pull the panel off the back and check for ice (and is it across the entire coil or just one part). Also pay attention to if it’s stops running from time to time and if you can hear ice cracking when it stops.

Alternatively you could just unplug it for 24 hours or so and then see if it gets cold. That would give all the ice a chance to melt…along with all your food.

So the freezer is as cold as it should be, but the refrigerator is too warm?

This happened to me last year. It turned out that there is a fan in the freezer section that is supposed to direct cold air from the freezer to the refrigerator section through a duct. That fan was not running. After a replacement freezer fan, everything worked fine.

I totally missed that line…yeah, that sounds like the case. In the mean time, your compressor is running like mad trying to get the temp down.
Find the fan, if it’s not spinning, see if there’s voltage, if there is, replace the fan, if not, we’ll dig further, but it’s likely just a bad fan.
If it’s spinning, make sure the duct is clear and nothing is blocking the vent on either end.

The freezer should be much closer to 0[sup]o[/sup]F, so it is much further out of the correct range than the fridge, which should be between 35[sup]o[/sup] and 40[sup]o[/sup].

Not the greatest cite, but a cite

Neglected to mention, in absolute numbers the fridge’s 45[sup]o[/sup] isn’t as far out of range as the freezer, but it’s out of the safety zone for stored food and as such is no longer a place to put food you plan to consume. Above 40[sup]o[/sup] means it has stopped being a refrigerator and is now in the early stages of being a microbial incubator. :wink:

Assuming (for the sake of argument) that the fan that brings cold air to the fridge is broken and the compressor is now running non stop, that could cause other problems that could bring the freezer temp up a hair, like the coils icing over from running for such long stretches at a time…even more so if the OP is opening the door constantly to check on it.

Also, since they’re both up we could start looking again at the defroster being broken. The OP mentioned that it does periodically shut down, it may be defrosting, but the compressor could also be going into thermal shutdown to protect itself from burning out.

So, OP…thinking outloud…
You need to peel off the back panel and take a look at the coils. Are they iced over? Are they iced over ‘evenly’ or one part more then the rest.

Can you find the fan the blows air from one side to the other? Is in spinning?

Is the drip pan under the fridge full of water?

When it shuts down, do you hear any noises? Can you hear ice cracking (that’s good if you can)? Do you see water dripping into the pan underneath?

How comfortable are you with a multimeter/voltage detector? We might need to check some fans?

How full is your fridge and do you have somewhere to temporarily go with everything?. A good test to see if this is an issue with the defroster is to pull the plug on it overnight and let any ice melt on it’s own. If it works well in the morning, it could be a bad defrost timer. Easy fix…usually.

the freezer at 20F is 20 degrees too high. frig should be 35 to 40F. set the freezer temp lower.

fan not running bringing freezer cold into frig or ice blocking that channel both could cause a warm frig.

let the unit come to room temp for two days will melt ice in the channel and in insulation. you will get more water then the drip pan can hold.

put both freezer and frig dials at suggested starting numbers. adjust freezer temp first leaving a day to stabilize. then adjust fridge.